Tagged: AL West

AL West

Note: a “straight
run differential projection” is based on a team’s actual runs scored and
runs allowed.  A “component runs projected” is based on
basic runs created and component ERA without the adjustment to make it an ERA figure (i.e. IP and
the multiplication by 9 not included).  I then applied the
Pythagorean
Formula
with an exponent of
1.83.


Well, well, the AL West, a division full of teams with flaws.  Only one team in this division is above average at both scoring and preventing runs, and that team plays in a climate that has historically caused their pitching to melt down in the summer heat.  The rest of the teams allow more runs than they score, which is obvious cause to doubt their prospects.  


ANGELS

jered weaver.jpg

39-33, .542 winning percentage, 3.5 GB, 4.5 GB Wild Card.  4.74 runs per game (6th in AL), 4.88 runs allowed per game (11th in AL), straight run differential projection 83 wins and .511 winning percentage; component run projection 79 wins and a .488 winning percentage (an 13 games behind first place…ouch!)

Over the past two weeks the Angels have faced the A’s, Dodgers, Brewers, and Cubs, and they have made the most of their competition, with an 8-5 record over that time.  But their bogus run differential condition persists: they have scored 61 runs (4.69 per game) over that  period, but they’ve allowed 65 runs (5.00 per game).  This is the oddness of this year’s Angels ballclub: they are six games over .500 despite giving up more runs than they have scored, and they are out-performing their expected record by four games.  Their record of 8-5 over the past two weeks is about two games better than we would expect, all things being equal.  On top of this already kind of odd oddity, the Angels’ actual run differential significantly over-performs their expected–component–run differential, which implies that they’ve been efficient and quite lucky so far this season.  Or they are a wild aberration.

Jered Weaver, pictured above, is leading the AL in strikeouts.

From here, the Angels return home to face the slumping Dodgers, then the Rockies, and then the division-leading Rangers as June draws to its close.

The Angels’ offense is surging but…the pitching, particularly the bullpen, remains suspect.  It used to be that once Scioscia went to the ‘pen, the game was over, and you could practically feel that even while watching on TV.  But it hasn’t been like that in either ’09 or ’10, and, in fact, the opposite feeling, one of near panic, has been palpable, even on my computer monitor.  Heck, you can practically smell the flop-sweat dripping off of Angels’ relievers’ faces when they come into tight situations.

A good example of what I’m talking about took place on Friday, when the Angels led the Cubs 7-2 heading into the ninth inning.  The “other Francisco Rodriguez” promptly walked the first two batters than served up a dinger to Tyler Colvin to cut the score to 7-5 and then Fernando Rodney walked a high wire in a high win to close out the Cubs 7-6.  But why did that game end up that close?  in 2008 the Angels’ ‘pen just shut them down.  Of course, the game would have been 3-2 in 2008 in the first place, so maybe I don’t have a point.

Despite infield injuries that include the Erik Aybar’s knee, the Angels are holding together and really swinging the bats very well.  But if they keep on giving up more runs than they score…well, they just won’t be around to play in the post-season.

[Note: I have not hyperlinks for the Angels because…I was delinquent and had a power outage while I was typing this post the other night and all my material went…wherever stuff goes in cyberspace when the power goes out before you save your work….]


A’s

34-37, .479 winning percentage, 8 GB, 9 GB Wild Card.  4.00 runs/game (12th in AL), 4.28 runs allowed per game (4th in AL).  Straight run differential projection for 77 wins and a .473 winning percentage; component run projection for 76 wins and a .467 winning percentage.

Over the past two weeks the A’s have fallen off the pace in the AL West. Granted the Rangers have been really, really hot, but the A’s have faced the Angels, Giants, Cubs, and Cardinals and they have won only 4 games, losing 9, in that time period.  They have scored 50 runs (3.85/game) while allowing 56 (4.31/game), meaning that their offense has been worse and less active in the past two weeks than it has over the course of the season, which is scary, since their offense hasn’t been…so far this year.

From here the A’s host the Reds (whom they trail 0-1 right now in game one of that series), and the Pirates (which maybe should give A’s fans something to be happy about) before they travel to Baltimore to end the month of June.

According to A’s fans, manager Bob Geren isn’t making the grade, and the blog Athletics Nation offers a condensed Managing 101 course for their allegedly confused skipper. 

I’m not sure it’s just an issue with a manager, but rather than this team simply can’t score enough.  


MARINERS

Cliff Lee vs Reds 1-0.jpg

26-41, .388 winning percentage, 13 GB, 14 GB Wild Card.  3.41 runs/game (13th in AL); 4.38 runs allowed per game (8th in AL); straight run differential projection 62 wins, .382 winning percentage; component run projection 63 wins, .390 winning percentage.

Ah, Seattle.  They expected big thins this year but they just can’t score runs.  Their Offensive Ineptitude is pretty entrenched.  On the other hand, they can pitch a little here and there: they just swept the Reds, allowing Cincinnati only 1 run in the entire 3-game series and winning two 1-0 shutouts behind some obviously dominant starting pitching from Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, and Ryan Rowland-Smith.  

In the last two weeks the Mariners have faced the Rangers, the Padres, the Cardinals, and the Reds, all teams that are at or near the top of their divisions.  Seattle has gone 6-7 over that stretch of games, but they needed to sweep the Reds to win six games, meaning they were 3-7 versus the Rangers, Padres and Cardinals.  Over the past two weeks, the Mariners have scored 32 runs (2.45 per game) while allowing 61 (4.69 per game), meaning that they weren’t very good until they started playing the Reds, allowing 60 runs over the ten games prior to their series with Cincinnati…yuck.

Going forward, the Mariners host the Cubs–maybe we’ll see the Silva vs. Bradley matchup we’ve been waiting for–before traveling to Milwaukee and the CitiField portion of New York as Seattle closes out June.

The brightest spot for the Mariners has been the ridiculous Cliff Lee, who threw a brilliant 1-0 shutout on Friday night.  Right now the Mariners are being coy and staying mum about what other teams are asking about trading for  Lee.  The blog, U. S. S. Mariner, provides a nice assessment of Cliff Lee trade stuff.  And my heart beats a little faster upon reading this item on the Twins being serious about pursuing him…oh, sorry, the Twins being serious about considering pursuing him.  

Finally, here’s an item comparing the Mariners to the division-leading Rangers.  Kind of funny if you’re not a Mariners fan.


RANGERS

41-28, .594 winning percentage, 0 GB.  5.14 runs per game (4th in AL), 4.33 runs allowed per game (5th in AL).  Straight run differential projection 93 wins and a .577 winning percentage.  Component run projection for 90 wins and a .554 winning percentage.

The Rangers have the largest lead over second place of an division-leading team.  They are HOT, and their offense has been completely ridiculous in June: .302/.361/.467, a .829 OPS, and a .360 team wOBA (that’s in 2009 New York Yankees territory).

While they did just come off a sweep of the putrid Astros, the Rangers hold a 9-1 record over their last 10 games, a 15-4 record in June, and they are 11-2 over the past two weeks, having faced the Mariners, the Brewers, the Marlins, and the Astros, and having scored 80 runs (6.15 per game) while allowing only 38 (2.92 per game).  They have over-performed their expected wins for the past two weeks by 1 game, and they are two games over expectations for the season.  

And Nelson Cruz hasn’t been at 100%.  

Gosh, Vlad Guerrero loves hitting in the Ballpark.  While that .371 BABIP looks unsustainable, he was a .390 career hitter at that ballpark in over 100 career games there before the season started.  He just flat-out hits in Arlington: .389/.439/.690, 1.129 OPS and .476 wOBA.  That. Is.  Obscene.

The Rangers will finish June by playing the Pirates and Astros at home before going to LA to face the Angels.  In other words, they are set up to continue their strong June before facing their nearest division competitor.

One source of strength for the Rangers has been the unexpected contributions they have received.  Additionally, 5 key pieces in their lineup are simply raking with runners-in-scoring-position and 2 outs.  

josh hamilton.jpg

Josh Hamilton has been ridiculously hot as well.  After last season, no one could expect that Hamilton would be good, but the better he is the more likely the Rangers will be to take the AL West.

Right now, Texas is the class of the division, but as I noted in the opening, the summer heat is still on its way, and it tends to melt Rangers pitching.  There’s still 90 games to be played and the Rangers could fold like a Titanic deck chair, but even in they do, none of us should forget the June they’ve had here in 2010 because it’s been special.


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Rangers Win, Hold 2 Game Lead in AL West  (Updated)

The Rangers won a tightly pitched ballgame over the A’s at the Ballpark, 2-1.  (Read the preceding sentence again; five, heck, two seasons ago, who would’ve though the Rangers would win with pitching?)

Vlad Guerrero has been pretty decent for the Ranger so far: his K’s are down, his BB’s are up, his BABIP is right in line with his career rate, there’s no weird spike in his batted ball results, he’s just been himself but in a better park for hitters, which means he’s justifying his contract.  Good signing by the Rangers.
The Rangers now hold a two-game lead in the AL West.  They now head to Toronto for a three game series before before returning home for a seven-game homestand that includes back-to-back mini-series (2-games each) against against the Angels and Orioles and concludes with a three game set with the Cubs.  In taking 2 of 3 from the A’s the Rangers have to be encouraged by the overall performance of their pitching staff and the fact that they have clawed their way into first place despite significant lost playing time for both 2B Ian Kinsler and RF Nelson Cruz.  Their starting pitching is very good.
The A’s head to Los Angeles/Anaheim for 3 games against the Angels, with Dallas Braden getting his first start since his perfect game tomorrow night against Joe Saunders.  They follow that with a seven-game homestand of their own, including consecutive 2-game miniseries against the Mariners and Tigers before hosting the Giants next weekend.  Despite dropping 2 of 3 to the Rangers, they have to be encouraged by Ben Sheets’ performance this afternoon.  Their starting pitching is very good.  
It looks like the Angels have a chance to get themselves back into the thick of things, but both the A’s and Rangers have been playing better baseball than the Angels.
UPDATE:  Jean-Jacques Taylor of The Dallas Morning News has a good piece on the Rangers’ need to take advantage of what looks to be a weak upcoming schedule.  A lot of reporters working on the “real” news could learn from this guy, because he doesn’t mess around or bury the lead; the key quote starts the piece:

This is the time for the Rangers to make a move in the AL West.

The schedule is weak with only nine of the next 53 games against teams currently with winning records. The starting pitching has been excellent, and the Angels are struggling.

Unfortunately, the reporters who focus on the A’s are focused most firmly on Dallas Braden rather on the things the A’s as a team need to do moving forward.  I looked, I really did look, for an informative piece of writing about what the near-term prognosis for this team would be, but Dallas Braden (uh, thanks, but we all knew he should focus on his next start, just like every other starting pitcher), Dallas Braden (oh, and I though he was simply obsessed with living out all the unwritten rules of baseball), Dallas Braden (er, well, yeah, every pitcher would like to throw a perfect game in every start), and–thank goodness someone noticed–Ben Sheets.   
What’s interesting about the last piece, the one about Sheets, is that it says that “Sheets held the impressive Texas lineup to one run in six-plus innings .”  Why that’s interesting is that the Taylor piece about the Ranger kind of downplays the quality of Texas’ offense.  Grass is greener and all that, I guess.  
Oh well, eventually someone will snap out of it and write something useful about the  A’s and the team’s future over the rest of 2010.

Sheets & Wilson Duel

As of the top of the 7th inning, Ben Sheets of the A’s and C. J. Wilson of the Rangers are locked in a pitcher’s duel, 1-1.

Sheets has been particularly stunning, allowing only one hit through six, a seeing-eye single up the middle by Elvis Andrus.
With the Rangers entering play holding a one-game lead in the standings, an A’s win would create a first-place tie in the AL West.  Clearly, the Rangers would like to prevent this.
Stay tuned.

Rangers Win, Take One Game Lead

The Rangers didn’t mess around tonight, putting up crooked numbers in the fourth through the seventh innings, and crushing the Oakland A’s 10-1 on Wednesday night.  [UPDATE:  The MLB Wrap is here.]

With the win, the Rangers assume sole lead of the AL West by a margin on one game.
The A’s have a chance to move back into a tie with the Rangers tomorrow, when Ben Sheets will face C. J. Wilson.  I would have to give the advantage to the Rangers solely on the basis of that starting pitching matchup as Wilson has been superb so far this season, though I should point out that he has been getting lucky with balls in play as well (note the .258 BABIP vs. his career rate of slightly over .300).  In addition to the edge Wilson gives the Rangers, both Vladimir Guerrero and Ian Kinsler have been hitting the holy heck out of the ball. 
Once Nelson Cruz returns from the DL, I think the Rangers will really start to separate themselves from the rest of the AL West pack.  No, he’s not going to maintain his ridiculous 35% homerun to flyball rate, but if you look at the BABIP numbers he actually was pretty unlucky last year; so, we will probably see his average rise or at least stay about where it is, while his isolated power and slugging percentage will drop; however, his slugging percentage will probably be higher than it was last season.   That still makes for one heck of an outfield bat.

A’s & Rangers Tied

The A’s pulled out a very tight game in 13 innings, 7-6  

The Rangers were down to their final strike twice in both the 9th and 11th innings, getting key RBI basehits by their youngster, Elvis Andrus (in the 9th) and then Julio Borbon (in the 11th) to tie the game and keep it going.  

But Langdon Powell of the A’s drew a leadoff walk in the 13th and with one out Daric Barton, who had homered earlier, hit a ball that deflected off of second baseman Ian Kinsler into right field, scoring Powell and putting the A’s up for good.  
Tyson Ross, despite blowing a save in the 11th inning, stayed in the game and held the Rangers scoreless for the final two innings, earning the win. 
The A’s are now in a first-place tie with the Rangers.
On Wednesday, the A’s will send Gio Gonzalez to the mound.  Gonzalez has been effective in all of his starts save on, against the Yankees.  The Rangers will start Derek Holland, who will be making his first Major League start of 2010 after putting up impressive numbers at Triple-AAA Oklahoma City
On Thursday, Ben Sheets will start for A’s, facing C. J. Wilson of the Rangers.  Sheets has been hit-and-miss this season, although his last start against the Rays was pretty good.  while Wilson has been excellent for the Rangers, having surrendered only 4 ER over 28 2/3 innings in his last 4 starts (that’s a 1.26 ERA over those starts).
Hopefully, the rest of the series will be as interesting as Tuesday night’s game proved to be.

Rangers Hosting A’s In Battle for AL West Lead

Angels or Mariners, Seattle or Los Angeles?  This was about all I heard during the offseason.  Several discussions in my former basement in Rochester, MN between myself, my roommate, Aaron R., his brother, Andy G., and our friend, Chris R., gyrated around this theme.

(Yes, I’m both a stat geek and someone who’s computer was in a basement.)
The Rangers and the A’s were largely forgotten, though I did make the argument, at least twice, that I thought the Rangers had finally figured out to pitch in their Ballpark.  Nevertheless, I never thought the A’s would be up towards the top of the division.  To me, they looked like their pitching, particularly their bullpen, was pretty good, but I didn’t think their offense was any good at all.  In fact, my description of them kind of matches what I’ve been observing with the Mariners–good pitch, no hit.
And here we are, entering the second week of May, and the Ballpark at Arlington is hosting a battle for the top of the division.  
UPDATE: Trevor Cahill goes for the A’s, while Colby Lewis will start for the Rangers (Lewis has been very good for the Rangers: 6 GS, 5 quality starts).
Since I really like Vlad Guerrero, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Neftali Feliz, I hope the Rangers take the series and the division.  But the A’s young starting pitching has been pretty good.  They have some potential, though the Rangers’ offense has an edge.  
Yeah, I know, the Angels still look okay on paper, but they have some real pitching woes, their offense is mediocre, at best, and despite taking two of three from the Mariners and stealing the first game of their series with the Rays, the past two weeks have not been kind to them (more discussion of the Angels’ woes can be found here).